The Really Terrible Orchestra


Yesterday evening, the Really Terrible Orchestra, founded in Edinburgh by Alexander McCall Smith and his wife, gave a concert in London, and, according to the press reports, received a standing ovation at the end.

How often are children told that “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”? The RTO goes to the other extreme, and follows the maxim “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly”. I believe that this is a far more important principle, because it emphasises the enjoyment you can get from playing a musical instrument without worrying about hitting all the right notes, or making a beautiful sound with the bow or breath control. And it’s not only true of music – thousands of mediocre sports enthusiasts take to the playing fields every week end to enjoy a game of football – all codes – in the winter and cricket in summer. They all know that they will never play for a professional team, but what does it matter? they are de-stressing themselves by their physical exertion in the company of like-minded, and to a large extent like-skilled people. At the end of the game, or concert, or whatever, the participants feel a wonderful buzz of satisfaction. What could be better than that?

As a student, I knew someone who claimed he would never take an interest in anything unless he could master it. If he took something up, he would have to work at it until he reached a high standard. If this was the only way he could gain any satisfaction from an activity, then fine – for him. Most of us do not have that dedication, but we do have multiple interests. It is a shame if we are not able to enjoy those interests because others don’t think we are good enough. So congratulations to the Really Terrible Orchestra, which allows musicians to come together no matter how low their standard, and have a good time.

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